People on the streets of Pakistan shouting, banners waving and guns being fired— really nothing new as this country has been facing some very tough times over the last few years. But those people on the streets late last night were not calling for the overthrow of the government or extremists chanting ‘death to America’ or even lawyers calling for judicial reform. They were cricket fans celebrating Pakistan’s victory over Sri Lanka in the Twenty20 World Cup Championship.Now I know that cricket is lost on most of us Americans, and believe me, I have tried many times to understand it. It’s tough. But seeing the jubilation on the streets and in the parks of Pakistan late Sunday night when their team was victorious, it did not matter if you knew the difference between a wicket and home plate or an ‘out’ verses an ‘over.’ It was crystal clear that this victory was a ray of hope the Pakistani people direly needed.
Not only have recent terror attacks thrown the country into a state of preoccupation and hyper-alertness, but it had hit their beloved cricket as well. A few months ago, terrorists struck a convoy of the visiting Sri Lankan team just before a game in Lahore. After that, international cricket organizations stopped any major games from being played on Pakistani soil. So that attack prevented most Pakistanis from seeing their national team contest in international tournaments.
With nearly 2 million displaced people in the northwest, a serious battle raging in the Swat Valley between the army and militants and another just starting to open down in South Waziritstan, good news and a little bit of hope are just what the doctor ordered. The TV news anchors even appear to be holding back ear-to-ear grins as they recount the game and show footage of drum-playing and bouncing cricket fans from every corner of Pakistan. Thanks to huge outdoor TV screens set up at several camps, thousands of the internal refugees were able to see the game.
To be honest , while watching the dancing on the streets, in the back of my mind I was thinking that these scenes are exactly the soft targets the Taliban militants have been targeting on a regular basis over the last few months. Luckily my paranoia was unfounded and the celebrations went off without a hitch.
My true hope is that the people of Pakistan get to savor this victory, giving them the opportunity to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long and tough tunnel to travel through, but there is an end.